Monday, March 5, 2012

Re-tackling the Tevis

After 13 years away from Tevis competition (except for '05, which doesn't count 'cause I didn't pass check in) I suddenly have the opportunity to do it again.  I say suddenly because as I am currently without a suitable mount, I was only  planning on helping a friend get her horse in shape for it and then crewing for her.  After about 3 months of weekly conditioning rides she unexpectedly asked me if I was interested in riding instead of her.  She had just learned of a fairly major health issue and decided she was not up to it.  I leaped at the chance.

My mount is a 15.3 hand BLM Mustang mare named Sweet BLM Gold.  She was adopted as a yearling by my friend Sue's dad, Bob Walz, the inventor of Easyride Stirrups, the most widely used endurance stirrup in the world.  She is 14 years old and has completed about 500 miles of 50 milers, each ride with a different rider.  In fact, I started a 50 on her, back in '03, but got pulled at 19 miles after she came up footsore.  She had done 50's barefoot without boots up in Oregon where there are fewer rocks, but really hadn't had enough training on the rocky trails in the Sierra foothills of California to develop enough of a callous to go barefoot here.  We were kicking ourselves for not booting her in front.

For me 15.3 is huge.  I am only 4'11" and am used to riding nothing over 14.2.  Until recently I was afraid to get off of her out on the trail unless there were big rocks or logs or better yet, a picnic table nearby to use for mounting blocks.  But after 4 months I am now able to mount her from the ground if I get uphill from her.  In my teens and twenties I could get on 15.3 horses with an English saddle from the flat.  But decades later, (I'm 53) my mounting skills aren't what they used to be.

The first time I clambered on her from the ground I felt like I was climbing a mountain.  With great effort I hoisted myself, pulling up with one handful of mane and the other hand frantically grasping  for the cantle on the opposite side of the saddle.  I basically clawed my way up.  It was a relief to finally throw my leg over the saddle.   Mercifully, Sue didn't take a picture of me with her iphone while I was doing this, but waited for me to put my butt in the saddle.  I say mercifully, because she always immediately posts all pictures taken during rides straight onto Facebook.  There are usually comments waiting for us about them when we get home.

I recently hooked up a heart rate monitor on her, and her recoveries are good.  After 3 rides with it I can already see some improvment.  Have you ever been on a really scared or upset horse who's heart is beating so hard you can feel it through the saddle?  I would love to get a reading on the HRM when they do that.  It must be way over 200 bpm.  I had an experience with her doing that a few weeks ago, but I'll tell you more about that in my next blog.  This is all for now.

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